SAMPLE(S) SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ and ‘Ivy’s League’

Wine w WritersI like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.

And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.

For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.

And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.

So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.

Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.

Happy Reading!

N.


Eduardo promoFrom ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’. Coming Soon.

The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.

Buenas días.”

Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.

Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.

“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”

“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.

“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”

“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”

Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.

Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.

“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”

And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.

“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”

Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.

“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”

“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”

“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”

At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.

“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.


Young black woman in the room

From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.

Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.

Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Get in,” he said.

Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”

He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.

That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.

“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.

He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.

“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”

He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.

Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.

**************

AVAILABLE NOW.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1Vb8C5R

 B&N: http://bit.ly/1NOPG7i

SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Eduardo promo

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

“So, are you going to help me or not?”

“Help you with what, Eduardo?”

“The social media nonsense.”

Miri smiled in spite of her earlier resolution to freeze him out. It was a good thing he couldn’t actually see her smile. It would betray how much of a pushover she was.

After managing to get through the entire Sunday dinner a few days ago without saying more than two dozen words to Duardo, her sense of triumph was almost immediately thereafter supplanted by a very hollow feeling when she recalled that the team was moving to a couple games out West, and she would likely not see him again for several more weeks. Talk about biting off her nose to spite her face.

Each morning since, she woke up pretending she wasn’t hoping he’d texted her, and each lunch hour felt barren and uninteresting. Miri had just about given up hope for their friendship when her phone rang. It was far too late for anyone to be calling unless it was an emergency—well after eleven p.m.—but she hadn’t the willpower to simply ignore him. Back when they’d been actually communicating, when he was away they seldom spoke on the phone, most often connecting by text. The chance to hear his voice, particularly when she wouldn’t see him for so long was too much to pass up, so Miri answered, trying to sound casual, and a little sleepy when neither of those things could be further from the truth.

The truth was, she’d been in bed for well over an hour, with all the lights off save one, and the television on, waiting for the Sandman to show up and lead her to slumber. She’d just about given up on him and was planning to try reading a novel when her phone chimed.

“If you don’t help me, I’ll have to pay a consultant. My agent tells me that’ll run me somewhere around ten thousand.”

“Ten thousand?” Miri sat up in bed, outraged. “That’s ridiculous. No not ridiculous, it’s insane.”

“Well what do I know? I guess I’ll have to pay it. Unless you want to help me out.”

“You don’t need anyone to help you out, Eduardo. A ten-year old can do this stuff. And you must have Facebook, right? And Tumblr? You …”

“No.”

“No? Not even just for you and your friends back home to keep in touch?”

“Everyone I want to keep in touch with, I keep in touch with. Facebook never made much sense to me. It basically keeps you in touch with people you never made a real effort to see in the real world. And probably for good reasons.”

Miri rolled her eyes. “I love Facebook. And Tumblr, and Instagram, and Snapchat. You get to make your own little virtual village. You admit the people you want in your village and you ignore the ones you don’t want in your village. Social media is one of the most important things to happen in the digital age.”

“You sound like an expert.” There was a smile in his voice. “So you’re the perfect person to help me.”

Miri sighed and leaned back against her pillows once again, resting the phone against her ear. Next to her bed, there was a half empty mug of chamomile tea. Tepid by now, it was supposed to be helping her get to sleep. Now she was grateful it hadn’t worked. But strangely, just hearing Duardo’s voice had settled something for her; she was relaxing and suspected that once their conversation was done, a sound sleep would follow.

“Hey. You still with me?”

Aside from being relaxing, his voice, in her ear while she lay in bed, also made her feel a little naughty, like she was doing something wrong. Miri was suddenly hyperaware of her nipples, and how they felt brushing against the fabric of her tank top. And she had the urge to slide a hand down her stomach, and between her thighs. What if she did? What would it matter? It wasn’t as though he would know what she was doing.

“I’m here,” she said.

“You’re being quiet again,” Duardo said, sounding suspicious. “Like you were last Sunday at your brother’s house. Did I … is something wrong?”

“Something like what?” Miri played with the lacy edges of her underwear. Did she dare?

“Did your brother tell you I talked to him?”

“He did.” Miri slid her hand beneath the waistband of her panties, tentative at first and still hesitant to let the genie out of the bottle with Duardo’s voice in her ear.

“And is that why you …”

“Why I what?”

For the first time in her life, she wondered whether she should wax. Like, wax … completely. Nessa said she did, and that it made sex more pleasurable. Made everything more pleasurable. Of course, Miri had never actually had sex, and had only her imagination to tell her what the “everything” referred to.

“Miri. You sound strange. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

What was strange was that they had been on the phone for only about five minutes, and yet she was moved just by the sound of his voice to do something that she seldom did otherwise. Now, parting her legs and touching herself, Miri was stunned at how wet she was, how sensitive. She couldn’t do this with him on the phone, because after the lightest touch, she was already having a difficult time remaining completely silent, and not giving in to the urge to moan.

“So?” Duardo prompted.

“So … what, Eduardo?”

“Stop calling me that,” he said, sounding somewhat testy.

“Calling you what?” she laughed lightly. “Your name?”

“You stopped calling me ‘Eduardo’ since the second time I laid eyes on you. Now all of a sudden you address me the way my parish priest would?”

If Miri didn’t know better, she would think he was upset with her. But why? Moments before, he seemed fine. And besides he was the one who was out carousing with blondes in short skirts. But she wouldn’t think about that right now, it would upset her groove and the slick, slow rhythm she was beginning to establish with her right hand. Slowly, her eyes fell shut as she moved her fingers in circles, stroking herself. A slight moan escaped her lips and she held still for a moment, waiting to see whether he had heard it, and would react.

“Okay, it’s late,” he finally conceded. “I just want to know whether you’ll do the social media set-up for me. Just tell me that much and I’ll let you get off.”

Miri couldn’t help it. She erupted in surprised laughter, halting her motions for a moment because if she kept it up, she really would get off.

“What the hell is so funny?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Yes, I’ll do the social media set-up for you. Although it’s really idiot-proof and if you just took a couple hours, you could do all of it yourself. The hardest part will be gathering all the images you have on your various devices, and …”

“I don’t have time for that.”

“You literally could have done some of it in the time it took us to have this conversation.”

“And what if I just wanted to have the conversation?” he asked. “What if the social media stuff is only part of the reason I called?”

Miri opened her eyes and froze for a moment. “So I didn’t scare you off by being so mean on Sunday?” she asked, before she could consider the wisdom of the question.

This time it was Duardo’s turn to laugh. “Last Sunday, that was you ‘being mean’?”

Well, as mean as she could manage, anyway.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Why?” Shit. Now what was she going to say? That she saw a picture of him with the blonde and was jealous?

Jealous. Yes. That was what she was. She’d seen a picture of Duardo with a woman he was more than likely involved with, and it made her positively green. The woman-in-the-little-white-dress probably didn’t need to surreptitiously touch herself while listening to Duardo’s voice from across the country. The woman-in-the-little-white-dress had probably experienced Duardo’s fingers doing to her what Miri now had to do for herself.

There it was. Thinking of him with someone else made her … jealous. Now what the hell was she going to do about it?

“You’re right,” she said quickly. “It is late. And I have work tomorrow, so how about we talk later this week about getting you plugged in?”

“Hey, wait a minute. I want to know why you were …”

“We’ll talk again soon, okay?”

He said nothing in response, but in the silence, she could feel his displeasure.

“One thing I need you to do though?” she said.

“Yeah. What?”

“While you’re away, take pictures. Places you go, things you see, even meals you eat. Take pictures with your phone and then save them for when I see you next, okay?”

“Sure. But wh…”

“Duardo. I really do have to get some rest.”

Miri ended the call before he could get another word in, and quickly shut off her bedside light, sliding even deeper under the covers as though hiding. And then for good measure, she turned off her phone. It took her a few minutes, lying there in the dark, to admit that there was no way she would fall off to sleep unassisted.

Sighing, Miri reached down once again, closed her eyes and summoned the image of Duardo’s tanned arms, the outline of his muscles under a grey t-shirt—for some reason he favored grey—and the look he sometimes gave her that almost fooled her into thinking that he wanted her too.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Miri3 promo flat

About ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’:

Coming from a large Dominican family that takes their gender roles very seriously, Miri Acosta has always enjoyed the protection of her three older brothers.

Until now.

Almost twenty-three, and just graduated from university she is finally on her own instead of living with her parents. Eager to experience every bit of what she’s missed her whole life living in the most exciting city in the world, Miri decides to buck her family’s wishes and become a modern, single woman. ‘Modern’ means clubbing, dating, and … casual sex.

Just so long as her brothers don’t find out.

As she’s about to put her ‘modern woman’ plan into effect, Miri meets Eduardo Cruz, the newest player on her brother’s MLB team who is exactly what she’s running from—a bossy, overbearing, traditional Dominican walking bundle of machismo.

Miri isn’t sure what to make of Duardo … but she can’t stay away from him, either, so she decides that he’s just the right man to get her started with the whole casual sex thing.

But Duardo isn’t interested in a ‘modern’ relationship. If Miri wants him, she’s going to have to learn how to become a more traditional Dominican girl. And once he gets her, whether she wants to or not, he’s playing for keeps.

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ – COMING SOON!

Though she kept her eyes down, Miri couldn’t help but listen. Eduardo had the kind of voice that made you want to listen. It was deep and hoarse, confident and steady. His English was vaguely rather than heavily accented, and there was even the hint of an American accent to it. He spoke Spanish like someone who had been bilingual all their life, and not just recently.

When he paused in the middle of his description of his home, Miri looked up and saw that his eyes were on her, as though he had been focused on her all along. Next to him, her brother Matt noticed the mutual staring and tilted his head to the side, his eyebrows lifting. Matt would no doubt tease her later about her obvious and naked attraction to Mark’s new teammate.

He was very handsome, so how could she not be attracted? And every time she looked at him, he was looking at her too, so the feeling might even be mutual. But that didn’t mean she was going to do anything about it. If she wanted to do something about it, she wouldn’t have known how.

Her inexperience with men embarrassed her. Especially when she was around her friends. Only Marisol knew she was still a virgin, and thankfully, she kept Miri’s secret from Nessa who probably would have taunted her mercilessly. Nessa, who reported her every conquest with R-rated detail, could not possibly understand what the hold-up was, and why Miri would be “saving herself.” But she wasn’t saving herself exactly; she just hadn’t met the man who made her want to give herself.

It was probably because she’d been raised in the Church, and from the time she was a toddler had been taught by the nuns to envision the sad face of the Blessed Virgin when she was about to sin. While her brothers went to public school where they were raised in the Bronx, Miri had gone to Saint Francis, where nuns clad in brown hammered into her all the various punishments for different types of sin. The sin of fornication was a bad one. Now, older and wiser, Miri wasn’t sure she believed everything she’d learned at Saint Francis, but those lessons were ingrained in her and all she could do was modify them … not flout them altogether. She might fornicate, but only if the urge to do so was overwhelming, and so far it hadn’t been.

She had been passionately kissed, had a couple times been felt up under her clothes, and had only once gone further than even that; but the ultimate act had never happened. Marisol on the other hand, also raised Catholic, said she had rid herself of her virginity at the first opportunity, which came freshman year in college. She told Miri that when her boyfriend pushed himself inside her, her body had resisted as determinedly as though he had been trying to press his thumb through the palm of her hand.

And the blood, Marisol said shaking her head. I don’t even want to tell you about the blood.

The thought of it almost made Miri swoon. She wasn’t completely innocent, and knew that some—maybe even most—women bled the first time, but she had heard very few firsthand accounts of what The First Time was like. A couple girls at Saint Francis had boasted of being sexually-active, but at the time, Miri wasn’t much interested. She wasn’t part of that crowd. She was one of the studious ones, more interested in her lessons and books than in parties and boys.

And why was she even thinking about that now?

Que precioso.”

Eduardo had ended his colorful description, and her mother was practically swooning, her father smiling as well.

“My mother thinks it’s madness to come to New York when you can live back home,” Mark said. “Even though I can’t persuade her to let me buy her a house there.”

“No. You save your money,” their mother said. “I am used to living here now. Maybe when I am old …”

Miri and her brothers exchanged smiles. None of them dared tell her that at almost sixty-five, they thought she was at least approaching old age. And certainly no one would bother reminding her that Mark now had more money than he knew what to do with. Relative to his wealth, the small things their parents accepted—some home remodeling, new appliances and a car—were akin to trinkets.

“You mustn’t encourage your mother to come here, Eduardo,” their mother continued. “Life here is very different … aislado … very isolated. Not very much …” She struggled with her English. “Not very much … comunidad.”

“Mom, that’s his and his mother’s business if she should come,” Miri jumped in, embarrassed.

Her parents always wanted to adopt the new Dominican ball players, treating them for a time like one of their own children, doling out unsolicited advice and even scolding them on occasion. One guy who had wound up in the papers for driving intoxicated, her mother had grabbed by the ear when he came over for dinner one Sunday, telling him he had shamed his family.

“No, but I’ve considered that,” Eduardo said. “I would not want her to be unhappy. She has friends in San Pedro. And her church.”

“Yes. Very important. Do you go to Mass, Eduardo?”

“Mom,” Matt groaned. “Stop. Bad enough you strong-arm the rest of us into going.”

“I shouldn’t have to … what do you say … strong-arm you into church, Mateo. But …” Their mother threw up her hands in defeat. “But … you meet your Maker at the end. So it is your choice whether you meet him in a state of grace or not.”

“I go on holidays,” Eduardo said, smiling politely. “Not much more than that, to be honest. And usually, I was strong-armed as well.”

“You young people today …” Standing up, her mother looked at Dylan who also stood. “Time for our chaca, Dylan?”

Her mother and sister-in-law headed for the kitchen and the little ones followed, lured by the promise of a sweet dessert. Her brothers and father continued talking among themselves and Xiomara leaned in to finish what remained on her plate now that she was freed from coercing Pedro into eating his own meal.

“How about you?” Eduardo asked.

Miri felt her face warm when he addressed her directly. The heat spread down her neck and to her belly. “What about me?”

“Do you often go to Mass?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Not often.”

Eduardo smiled, and she couldn’t figure out what that smile meant. What conclusion was he drawing from the fact that she too, had to be forced to Mass? Although why she should care about the conclusions he drew was beyond her.

“Are you staying tonight, Miri?” Mark asked from the head of the table.

“No. Too difficult to get to work on time from here.”

“God forbid you should be a little late to your high-powered job as a proofreader,” Matt smirked.

“High-powered or not, they expect me to be on time,” Miri snapped.

She hated it when her brothers treated her like she was a flibbertigibbet. She was doing what most people did after college—working at a job that paid the bills until she could figure out her next move. But she supposed the fact that her job didn’t actually pay the bills was part of what caused them to ridicule her.

After she graduated, Mark had continued depositing almost fifteen-hundred a month into her checking account. Of all her brothers, he was the one who would have had standing to inquire about when she was going to “get serious” about her life, and yet he did not. Matt and Peter on the other hand were relentless in their quest to prove her a spoiled brat. Like either of them had a leg to stand on.

Mark had bankrolled Matt’s new venture, a baseball camp for Little Leaguers; and Peter’s auto body shop that specialized in tricking-out luxury cars for irresponsible athletes and hedge-fund millionaires with too much disposable income on their hands. And just because both businesses were doing well, they conveniently forgot that it wasn’t their own ingenuity that had led to their success, but Mark’s money and good reputation. Although Acosta was a common name, the family resemblance to their famous brother opened lots of doors.

“So I’ll take you home after we’re done eating,” Mark said, smoothly avoiding yet another sibling squabble by bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I need to take Duardo anyway.”

“Or you could take us to the train,” Eduardo suggested, unexpectedly. “I’d like to see what that’s like.”

Mark hesitated. “I think Dylan would kill me if I dropped you at the train station, man.”

“I would prefer it,” Eduardo said, more firmly this time. “So long as …” He looked at Miri. “So long as I have a guide to make sure I am not lost.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Miri saw that Matt was smirking again.

“Sure,” Miri said, feeling a tremor in her voice that she hoped no one else could hear. “I’ll be your guide.”